April 26, 2009

Blue Collar, White Collar, Silicon Valley

A while back, Burbed reader DreamT made this comment:

Can you park a space shuttle, a fire truck, or a blimp in this Fremont house? | SF Bay Area Home Price and Mortgage Insanity Blog – Burbed.com
DreamT Says:
April 16th, 2009 at 11:46 pm

Ask a $25k earner his social strata and he’ll say he’s middle class. Ask a $250k earner and he’ll also say he’s middle class. In fact, the $250k earner points out he cannot afford a house “in the Silicon Valley”
The differences are where you want to see them. They’re in the eye of the beholder, and speak about who you are rather than what you see. The concept of “blue” versus “white” collar, originally meaningful when you had full segregation of management vs floor workers, closed door offices, different clothing, different “villages” – it never applied as little as in recent times’ Silicon Valley. You say so yourself by pointing out they are only divided by a street that’s not even an Expressway. What segregates people in the bay area is their nationality or ethnicity, and the timing of their arrival in the bay area, rather than their income, education or even job. The parents of fellow Engineers I worked with, grew up and still live in Palo Alto. They were what you’ll call blue collar and they still live in your neighbors.
As anon asks, what makes you a white collar? Your job? No, if you live in a dirt cheap place littered with pickup trucks, right? So, your education? Same thing. Your lifestyle and house location? No, since you could have a traditional blue collar job since the 70s and live comfortably in Saratoga. So, moving up to Palo Alto and buying a Porsche makes you a white collar family, suddenly? Is that what you’re reduced to assert?

Which brings up some interesting questions. What does it mean to be blue collar or white collar in Silicon Valley? Does it even apply?

Similarly, what is working class in Silicon Valley? What is middle class? What is professional class?

Here’s what the Mayor of San Jose had to say:

Wealth-Less Effect: Earning Well, Feeling Otherwise
Proposed Tax Increases on Six-Figure Earners Highlight Mounting Costs of Living — and the Relativity of Prosperity

San Jose, Calif., Mayor Chuck Reed calls a family living in Silicon Valley earning $250,000 “upper working class.” That is about what two engineers working at a technology firm can expect to make, but “a family earning $250,000 a year can’t buy a home in Silicon Valley,” he said.

James Duran owns a human-resources company in Silicon Valley and is president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in California. He supported Mr. Obama, but is worried about the tax proposals. He has laid off some employees in recent months and has been wondering how he can fund an extension of those workers’ health-care benefits.

Mr. Duran said he and his wife earn about $400,000 annually, but “I’m barely getting by.” They have high property and state taxes, as well as college tuition and savings to cover. “I’m an Obama man, but this side of him is a difficult pill for me,” he said.

Is $400,000 for a 4 person family middle class in Silicon Valley? Is that white collar?

It sort of makes sense… after all, we’re a very very very special place with an mix of smart people that’s impossible to find anywhere else.

What class are you?

Comments (107) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:27 am